9 Tips For Teen Drivers

Teen Safe Driving Tips

Updated October 5, 2020 . AmFam Team

Take a look at these important teen safe driving tips to make sure young drivers are getting the details they need to be safe on the road.

Do you remember the day you got your driver’s license? It was so exciting! Odds are, as your kids reach driving age, they’re right there with you.

Times have likely changed since you were a teen driver. Cell phones are everywhere today, making distracted driving a problem now more than ever. In addition to smartphone safety while driving, there’s a lot to learn about keeping your new driver safe on the road today. So, as your teen gears up for their own license and newfound freedom, help them get in the know and stay focused behind the wheel with these tips for safe teen driving.


What Are the Risks of Teenage Driving?

According to the CDC (Opens in a new tab), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Factors that put teen drivers at risk include:

  • Inexperience
  • Speeding
  • Not using a seatbelt
  • Drinking and driving
  • Nighttime and weekend driving

It’s possible to prevent teen car accidents, and there are ways teens can be convinced to drive more safely.

Good Driving Skills Start Before Teen Drivers Take the Wheel

Because parents are among the biggest influencers in their kids’ lives, it’s fair to say that teens are watching you drive. So, if you drive the way you want your kids to, you’ll find that modeling safe driving habits will pay off. Your teen will begin to understand these concepts before they get behind the wheel, and may repeat your process when they’re on their own.

Teen Safe Driving Tips

Here are some key new driver safety tips your teen should know as they get ready to ride solo.

Encourage learning

Mention to your teens that there’s a learning curve to becoming a good driver. Let the smaller mistakes become a chance to teach them. Continue to coach your teen to drive safely each time you’re in the car.

Get them ready to drive

Teach your teen the first thing to do when getting in the car. Tell them to put on their seat belt — and ask their passengers to buckle up, too. Remind them to check their mirrors and clean them if they’re dirty or covered with snow before taking off.

Keep your car healthy

Let your teen know that if a dash light goes on to pull over and call a parent immediately. Some lights come on because the danger is imminent — others only need attention soon. Making sure your teen knows where the car’s user manual is and how to read it can help them become proactive in situations like this.

Turn on the tech

Some newer cars are starting to come equipped with a teen driver mode, which is a built-in system that coaches new drivers. It lets parents set speed alerts, volume limits on media, and some even have a “report card mode,” which holds onto details for parents to review later. If you’re shopping for a new car for your new teen driver, these can really help you understand how your teens are driving while they're alone.

Keep gas in the tank

It’s a good idea to keep your gas tank at least a quarter full. If you don’t dip below that, you won’t be at risk of running out of gas. Teens will have a lot on their minds when they’re first starting to drive.

On the Road Teen Safe Driving Tips

Once that learner’s permit is in hand, your teen will likely be eager to put in some miles on the road. Here are a few safe teen driving tips that’ll help them stay safe while they’re breaking in the driver’s seat.

Blind spot beware

Teach your teen to stay out of other driver’s blind spots, especially semi-trucks, and that it’s best to assume someone is in their blind spot when changing lanes or turning. That way, they get into the habit of turning and looking to check, instead of relying only on a mirror or a sensor.

Look before backing up

It only takes a couple seconds to walk behind the car to check for objects or kids before backing out of a driveway or parking spot — have your new driver build it into their routine!

Stay street smart

When parking on the street, remind your teen to check for traffic and bikes before opening their driver-side door. Make sure they know how to rely on their mirrors before making a move. All it takes is a moment to be sure it’s safe.

Signal steady

They should always use their signal when changing lanes. If they don’t and something happens, they could be at fault. Another important part of that is to teach them to let the signal run for a few moments before turning. That way, everyone around knows to expect a turn or lane change.

Avoid distractions

In driver’s education, teens learn all about the dangers of distracted driving, like texting, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, eating, talking on the phone or changing the music. Yet over time, it’s easy for bad habits to start creeping into our daily commutes. It’s up to all of us to lead by example and stay safe on the roads.

Know your state's laws

New teen driving laws are coming on the books all the time. Educate yourself about your state’s laws so you and your kids aren’t taken by surprise. Certain states have really increased the penalties for distracted driving — some even consider eating as distracted driving!

Know the limits

Driving near or below the speed limit is a great way to guide young drivers. Going too fast or even too slow can increase the risk of accidents.

Slow down safely

Teach them to slow down well before they need to stop. Braking quickly at stop signs or lights is hard on the car and can seem unpredictable to other drivers and pedestrians.

Know the NHTSA’s “5 to Drive”

Because parents set the rules before teens hit the road, take time and be sure your teens know the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s teen driver rules:

  • No cell phones while driving
  • No extra passengers
  • No speeding
  • No alcohol
  • No driving or riding without a seat belt

Learning to drive is an exciting time for your teen. But make sure they know that with this new freedom comes big responsibility. It’s a rite of passage that deserves their full attention and respect. These teen safe driving tips and your contribution to their future safety on the road can help them to develop great driving habits that can last a lifetime.

Protect Your Teen’s Safety Behind the Wheel

Teen driving safety is very important, and so is being properly insured. Want to learn more ways you can help your teen be safer behind the wheel? Check with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to find how they can build you a car insurance policy that covers you best. You’re going to feel great knowing that your teenager’s driving safely, and that your family’s got the coverage they need.

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    Test Driving a Car at the Dealership

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    What if I don’t have car insurance?

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    What if I have my own car insurance?

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    Can the dealer hold me liable for damages?

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    What if I sign a waiver?

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    What if I’m test-driving a car for sale by a private party?

    Though cars that are sold on the private market are typically covered by standard personal auto insurance, the best thing to do to protect yourself is ask them to call their agent and ensure you’re covered to drive the car.

    You could also ask the owner of the vehicle to sign a statement that gives you permission to drive the car and stating the car is insured. It never hurts to be extra careful in instances like these.

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    What do I need to test-drive a car?

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    How to Prevent Distracted Driving

    Sending a text, eating your burrito, applying makeup — what do all of these tasks have in common?

    They’re all everyday examples of distracted driving.

    As a driver, it’s your responsibility to focus on the road to keep you, your passengers, and other people on the road safe from accidents. We’ve put a spotlight on some risky driving behaviors that we hope can help influence you to keep your focus on the road.

    What is Distracted Driving?

    Distracted driving is when the driver is doing something that takes their attention away from the task of driving. Any time your eyes and/or mind are taken away from the road, you’re technically distracted, which means an increase in the risk of an accident.

    Not all driving distractions are created equal. As you can imagine, some forms of distraction aren’t as dangerous as others. For example, hands-free telephone conversations — although not recommended — isn’t as deadly as other modes of conversation while driving.

    The Deadliest Driving Distraction: Texting and Driving

    It should come as no surprise to you that texting is the most common distraction while driving as well as the most dangerous. It’s so deadly in fact, that it gets its very own section.

    It’s easy for us all to see the dangers of texting while driving, but even with that knowledge, so many of us fall into the temptation of sending off a fast text message while behind the wheel. But even a quick text can have horrible consequences.

    Just think, when you look at your phone, your focus is on the screen, not the road; one hand is off the wheel to hold your device, and your mind drifts to the message instead of the task at hand: driving safely.

    Why texting is distracting

    To put it into perspective, if you’re traveling at 55 MPH and you take your eyes off the road and onto your phone, you’ve traveled about 100 yards – the length of a football field! That’s quite a distance to cover driving “blind.”

    The National Safety Council reports that one out of every four car accidents in the United States is caused by a distracted driver who was texting. They also reported that texting and driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving while intoxicated.

    Let these driving facts be a wake-up call to the extreme dangers of texting while driving.

    Is it Illegal to Use Your Phone While Driving?

    The truth is that it depends on which state you live in. As of 2020, the Governors Highway Safety Association reports that there is a hand-held cell phone use ban in 22 states, with 48 states banning text messaging for all drivers. Find out the distracted driving laws for your state to ensure you’re following the rules of the road in your state.

    It’s always important to know our state laws, and in your state there may very well be no law preventing you from texting while driving. However, for your safety as well as those in your car, and for anyone else sharing the roads with you, it’s best to stick with a firm “no phone use while driving” mentality.

    Types of Distracted Driving

    The first step to preventing distracted driving is understanding what it is. In a nutshell, anything that occupies your attention while driving is a distraction. Here are a few notable distractors that should be eliminated while behind the wheel.

    Checking your GPS

    When it comes to directions, we’ve come a long way from the world of fold-up maps. Today, everyone has a built-in navigation system in the palm of their hands: the smartphone. The only problem is that just one quick glance at your phone’s screen is all it takes for a costly mistake behind the wheel.

    Your best bet is to leave your phone in your pocket or purse when driving. But if you must use your phone for directions, enable the voice feature so that you don’t have to look at the screen for every turn.

    Sifting through your music device

    Trying to find the right song for your road trip is just as dangerous as texting and driving. Your best bet is to pick a playlist prior to getting into your vehicle. Or listen to the radio. The key here is to keep your eyes on the road and not on your music device.

    Checking social media

    Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, you name it – all of them bide for our constant attention. Don’t fall prey to this when you’re driving. That post, tweet, or message can wait. Avoid checking social media when behind the wheel.

    Eating behind the wheel

    You may be a pro at eating your burrito on the go, but ingesting your lunch while driving is a big no-no. All it takes is one wayward waffle fry to take your attention from the road to your lap. And it’s not just the mess that distracts; it’s the smell, taste, you name it – that makes eating one of the most distracting things you can do while driving.

    Other types of distracted driving

    There are a few more forms of distracted driving that could cause an accident. If you’re in the driver’s seat, try to avoid these altogether:

    • Taking selfies
    • Talking on the phone
    • Drinking coffee or another beverage
    • Putting on makeup
    • Using an app
    • Loud music

    Top 5 Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving

    There are easy ways to prevent distracted driving. Try using making these five simple changes distracted driving safety tips to have a safer driving experience.

    Use a text-blocking app

    There are many apps available that block texts while driving. Several apps exist with different features, ranging from ones that completely block any incoming or outgoing texts while going a certain speed, to apps that will send a message saying you’re unavailable to respond to an incoming text. Here’s a list from DMV.org with great suggestions for apps to fight distracted driving.

    Have a passenger navigate for you

    If you’re driving with a passenger (of an appropriate age), hand the directions to them. Even a not-so-great navigator in the passenger seat is better than the person behind the wheel being responsible for both driving and navigating. If you’re driving by yourself, take the time to look at the directions before you set off. Then turn the volume up and let the AI lead the way.

    Make music selection easy

    Make multiple playlists that you can choose from before starting the car. If you really need to change it up, either pull over or wait for a red light. Set your presets to stations you already know you like. Hitting one button is better than cranking the dial until you find music you like.

    Don’t text while driving

    If you’re behind the wheel, just put the phone away. Social media can wait. It’s not going anywhere — that we can promise. Are the notifications too tempting? Turn them off! No comment or new tweet is worth the risk.

    Eat at home or while stopped

    If you’re in a rush and want to keep things moving, consider the hazards of driving while eating behind the wheel. Hopefully you can recognize that the risks outweigh the temptation, and you can wait until you get to your destination to eat.

     

    How Does Distracted Driving Affect Insurance?

    For starters, getting into an at-fault accident will almost always make your insurance premium go up, simply because your insurance company now deems you a higher-risk driver. Distracted driving is no exception. Even if you avoid an accident but you get a ticket for distracted driving, you’re susceptible to those increases in insurance.

    Why does distracted driving increase insurance? For starters, you may be getting a discount for having a clean driving record. But if you get a ticket, such as for texting while driving, you may no longer be eligible for that discount, and you’ll notice an increase in your premium. Another reason your insurance might go up goes back to being a higher risk. If you’re guilty of distracted driving, an insurance company will consider you a high-risk driver (meaning you’re more likely to file a claim due to an accident) and they’ll set your premiums higher.

    Many of the discounts that insurance companies give out revolve around rewarding drivers for having no claims and a good driving record in general. Don’t let distracted driving take away those perks!

    Protect Yourself From Distracted Drivers on the Road

    Avoiding distracting driving behaviors is a great way to be safe on the road, and car insurance is a great way to stay protected from the unexpected. With American Family you can customize your car coverage to meet your unique needs. Talk to your agent today to find the right coverage for you.

    The Insurance Information Institute claims driving while interacting with a mobile device can increase the odds of a crash by as much as 3.5 times, compared to the risks that a sober, alert and attentive driver faces. Teens are more susceptible to collisions, even when speaking hands-free on a mobile phone. Let’s explore the many ways you can help prevent distracted driving accidents.